Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Alexander the Great, a Battle for Truth and Fiction

Alexander the Great, a Battle for Truth and Fiction is a layman accessible and interesting monograph on the analysis and evaluation of historical sources, specifically sources detailing the history surrounding Alexander the Great written by David Grant. Due out 30th April 2022 from Pen & Sword, it's 336 pages and will be available in hardcover format.

Alexander the Great and his generals and ancient Macedonian history are perennially popular subjects and always fascinating to revisit. Recent political and media "truthfulness" should have left every one of us more jaded and cynical about their objectivity. How much more so are accounts of ancient history, sometimes written centuries after the fact by people who had a distinct desire to present a biased view (unconsciously or with conscious inclination)? 

The author, who is a specialist in the subject, takes on the task of evaluating sources and attempts to tease the actual facts out of the historical hyperbole. The book is arranged thematically and the chapters include a pretty good general resource evaluation which will be of use to any students of history, as well as specific instances of historical sources on Alexander the Great and using sources to evaluate and interpret their objectivity by comparison and contrast. 

It could have been an impenetrable dry-as-dust bore-fest but the reality was that it's anything but. I honestly began reading without unusually high hopes (I'm a keen reader of ancient Greek & Roman history, but by no means an expert). I was genuinely surprised at the accessibility and readability here. The book is extensively and meticulously annotated, but it was never boring. As a relative neophyte with the period, it was an information rich deep-dive into the histories of the surrounding characters. The chapters which contained glimpses of his familial and conjugal alliances were particularly illuminating, showing how polarized many of the sources were. 

Five stars. This would be an excellent choice for readers of history as well as for public or school library acquisition. The chapter notes and bibliography alone are worth the price of admission. It's not lavishly illustrated at all, and most readers will want to keep a period atlas at hand to look up places and events. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

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